Lillian A. Tamayo: Requiring employers to pay for insurance coverage that includes birth control a win for women, health of society
February 10, 2012 at 4:19 am
For millions of women, birth control is both a fundamental health care issue and an economic issue. In fact, one of the most popular parts of the health care law is birth control coverage without co-pays.
Protecting birth control coverage is grounded in sound medical science and means more women can plan their families; more women can have healthy pregnancies; and more women can have healthy children.
The fact is, birth control is not just basic health care for women, it makes economic sense, too. Without this new birth control coverage benefit, many women would pay $15 to $50 per month. This benefit will help millions of women save hundreds of dollars each year.
Unfortunately, conservative members of Congress, including Florida’s U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, and Catholic bishops want to exempt religiously affiliated universities, hospitals, social service agencies and schools from the “birth control with no co-pay” benefit. They want to cut off access to affordable birth control for nurses, secretaries, teachers and other workers of all faiths, intruding on individuals’ ability to practice their own religion or faith, including their personal decisions about health care.
Women of all faiths use birth control. Indeed, 98 percent of sexually experienced Catholic women in the United States have used birth control at some point in their lives. Seventy-one percent of American voters, and 77 percent of Catholic women voters, support birth control without co-pays. And National Public Radio reports that many Catholic hospitals and universities already provide insurance coverage for birth control.
But it’s not just President Barack Obama and women who want to protect birth control. The nonpartisan Institute of Medicine also recommended birth control coverage as a preventive service because it is fundamental to improving women’s health and the health of their families. Increased access to birth control is directly linked to declines in maternal and infant mortality. Among other things, birth control can protect women against debilitating symptoms of endometriosis and can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.
Sadly, this federal attack on women’s health care is happening here, too. The Florida Legislature has 10 bills pending that would reduce access to reproductive health care. One wonders why the Legislature is trying to restrict women’s access to reproductive health care when there are almost 2 million Florida women who do not have health insurance and 1.9 million in need of contraceptive services and supplies.
As Florida politicians — in the state Legislature and in Washington — move forward with bills that would reduce access to reproductive health care, I hope they will think about the Florida women who need better access to health care. It is women who will pay a personal price for these partisan politics.
Lillian A. Tamayo is president/CEO of Planned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast, West Palm Beach. Online: www.ppsoflo.org